The Ontario Legislature is expected to pass a bill shortly that will require binding arbitration if the Toronto Transit Commission cannot negotiate a new collective agreement with its unions.
Bill 150 was introduced on February 22 and is slated for second reading debate on February 24. It is expected that it will be passed in time for the expiry of the current collective agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union on March 31.
In the event a negotiated settlement cannot be achieved, an interest arbitrator would be appointed. The criteria the arbitrator would have to consider in addition to the standard ones are similar to those under the Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act: the employer’s ability to pay, possible service reductions flowing from the award, the local and provincial economic situation, terms and conditions of employment of comparable workers, and attraction and retention of employees.
To these are added the three “purposes” from the Public Sector Dispute Resolution Act: expeditious resolution of disputes, the favouring of negotiated settlements and the encouragement of best practices in “the delivery of quality and effective public services that are affordable for the taxpayer.”
It is the prevailing wisdom that contracts settled by binding arbitration are more costly than those arrived at in negotiations. An estimate by the C.D. Howe Institute puts the cost for the TTC at $23 million per collective agreement.
The Amalgamated Transit Union’s offer to settle the upcoming contract under binding arbitration was rejected by the city, which insisted that the union renounce the right to strike perpetually.
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